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July 16, 2004

Deaf foundation welcomes new telecoms service

From:, New Zealand - Jul 16, 2004

The National Foundation for the Deaf yesterday welcomed the introduction of a telecommunications service for deaf and hearing impaired people.

The service, provided by Sprint International New Zealand, is scheduled to start in November and works with an intermediary assistant relaying phone calls between a hearing or speech impaired person and a hearing person.

The assistant would speak to a hearing person words typed by a hearing impaired person on a textphone. The relay assistant also turned the hearing person's response into type back to the hearing impaired person.

National Foundation for the Deaf executive manager Marianne Schumacher, said the service would be a boon to the 450,000 deaf and hearing impaired people around the country.

"The hearing sector has lobbied for many years for such a service and we are delighted that it has finally come to fruition," she said.

The system, which is expected to cost around $2 million for the first financial year, will offer free local and national calls at least until call volumes increase, said a Ministry of Economic Development spokesman.

© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2004.